Railways: Exhaust Emissions

Transport written question – answered on 15th October 2008.

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Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to her statement on 22 April 2008, Official Report, column 1184, that a high-speed rail service emits approximately double the carbon dioxide of a lower-speed rail service,

(1) if she will place in the Library her Department's analysis of the carbon dioxide emissions from high-speed rail and lower-speed rail;

(2) how much her Department spent on analysing the carbon dioxide emissions from high-speed and lower-speed rail in the latest period for which figures are available; and how many staff worked on that analysis;

(3) what estimate she has made of the volume of carbon dioxide emitted per mile travelled by (a) a high speed train, (b) a lower speed train and (c) an average aeroplane.

Photo of Paul Clark Paul Clark PPS (Rt Hon Ed Balls, Secretary of State), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

The 2007 Rail White Paper estimated that carbon emissions per passenger for a journey between London and Edinburgh would be approximately 7 kg for conventional speed rail, 14 kg for high speed rail and 26 kg for aviation.

This analysis was informed by Professor Roger Kemp's work on the environmental impact of high speed rail and his report for the Rail Safety and Standards Board on traction energy metrics. Further information on the assumptions underpinning these estimates can be found on the Department for Transport's website at:


Professor Kemp's energy metrics report can be found at:


Departmental staff have analysed the carbon impacts of high speed rail but within the context of their wider environmental and rail responsibilities. Consequently, the Department is unable to provide the information on staff and resources as requested.

In March this year, the Secretary of State invited Network Rail to examine options for supporting further growth in the longer term, which might include new conventional and high speed lines. As part of this work, further consideration will be given to the relative carbon performance of higher and lower speed rail options.

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